catering intuition and a spiritual sweat

Putting together all the pieces of the wedding has definitely been a challenge from a distance.  Not to mention, Albuquerque has slim pickin's compared to Austin!  And people barely Yelp there either, so it's taken a lot of investigative research (online, in local wedding booklets I picked up here and there, in Albuquerque magazine...) to get leads on vendors.  

Last summer, while in town visiting, we met with Events in Good Taste.. they definitely seemed like one of the more upscale options (in a sea of mediocrity).  The head chef also does all the planning-- it's pretty much a one-woman show, which is impressive.  They didn't do official tastingss, but she did let us taste samples of dishes she'd made for another event.  Everything was great and she definitely knew her stuff, but the price quote was way over our budget.

Then we tried Blue Plate Catering.  It seemed from their website that they do a lot of weddings and there were a ton of appetizer options and menus listed.  As far as customer service went, they were right on point-- you can tell they turn out caterings like nobody's business.  However, the food just fell short.  How could we pay that much for food we knew we could do (way) better?

So we returned to Austin, back at square one.  Carson was convinced he could cater the entire wedding.  HIS OWN WEDDING.  I scoffed and kept searching-- there had to be a good fit out there!  But what I found was a lot of over-priced, half-hearted event fare: chicken breast and string beans, pasta and salad, prime rib and mashed potatoes...nothing really spoke to me.  And then... I found Dawn Sanchez Creations.

Their sample menu online had a bit of Southwestern flair to it (found in items like pollo adovada rice wraps with cilantro sour cream) and was modern enough to offer a vegetarian entree option like quinoa-stuffed portobellos.  I contacted them to see what their rates were and immediately took a liking to Dawn's assistant Genevieve, who has been so helpful and informative through this whole process.  She assured that they would work within our budget, no matter what it was-- and so far that is exactly what they have done!

I started to Google Dawn some more and found this article about the many obstacles she has had to overcome.  And then I found this video about a loan she received nine years ago which helped her start her catering business which just keeps getting busier:

I had a good feeling about Dawn... so I just started to move forward with things before even tasting her food!  Gutsy? Yes.  But I had to trust my instincts and I really wanted to support this independent ladychef who started from the ground up. 

Now the cake.  Last summer, C and I had also sampled two cake places-- one was ABC Cake Shop & Bakery (nice-looking but disgustingly sweet cake with a Crisco-esque buttercream) and the other was A Cake Odyssey (beautiful cakes and less sweet but not knock-your-socks off.. plus major attitude from whoever was manning the counter that day AND they never returned any of my calls or messages... boooo!)  So when I spoke with Dawn on the phone and she began describing some of the cakes she'd made, I was sold!  Real Italian merengue buttercream, flavors like hazelnut and amaretto...her cakes seemed like a beacon of light compared to the boring white cake/chocolate cake/nothing-more-exciting-then-strawberry-or-lemon-filling standards I'd been seeing.  And she was happy to give a discount of $1 off per person since we were having her cater the food too.  Sold!     

Moving on with this lengthy post, we sampled our whole menu at the Hacienda, starting with the passed appetizers: corn cakes with goat cheese and red pepper jelly and butternut squash and wild mushroom (not mixed- 1/2 and 1/2) empanadas!

corn cakes with goat cheese, red pepper jelly, and cilantro garnish

Next, the entree-- deliciousy crunchy chile rellenos (can't find em in Texas like you can in New Mexico!), some with shredded chicken and some with a mix of cheeses.  She will serve these with a creamy green chile sauce on the side.  Then black beans and cilantro rice, and a jicama slaw to go with the pulled pork and brisket Carson will be smoking (I okay'd this one not-so-labor-intensive culinary task.. plus, he just makes the best smoked meats!).  And green chile foccacia and tortillas.  There will also be a salad with pepitas, roasted corn, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco, and a pear vinagrette!

empanadas, chile relleno, jicama slaw, and black beans & cilantro rice

And Dawn's cake was amazing-- moist, with a great texture and fabulous icing!  Neither cake nor frosting was overly sweet.  She brought us a TON of different types to taste (see top photo)-- ones we'd asked for as well as others.  We settled on tres leches ("You can make a tres leches wedding cake??" I asked in amazement, remembering the Top Chef tres leches quincenera fiasco) with fresh raspberry filling and Mexican chocolate with mocha pudding filling and vanilla buttercream.

Next, Bebe and I took a drive to check out the Holiday Inn where most of the guests will be staying.  I was thrilled to see this adorable little (24 hour!) diner across the street from it.  In a teeny town that is pretty desolate, it is most serendipitous that it happens to be right there!

the Rio Grande Diner

I also checked out the space where we will be participating in a sweat lodge the day before the wedding!  Temazcal Ollin is a healing, purifying Aztec-style steam bath.  Unlike the Lakota ceremony I've participated in before, this one is held in an igloo-shaped adobe structure:

herbs and oils used for the limpia before entering the temazcal

the altar, where we will place various offerings-- crystals, flowers, herbs, photos, candles, tokens...

Several things down and a bunch more to go...getting married really is as involved as everyone says it is!  I finally believe the hype.